A virtually indestructible plastic compound created by British inventor Maurice Ward. There is not much information about it beyond the contents of a 1993 Jane's International Defence Review article and some British documentaries from around the same time. Due to its nature and potential applications, Ward is understandably secretive and few news items on the material exist. There is also increasing speculation that web-based material on the compound has been forcibly removed by nefarious forces that want the material for their applications only. I think the implication is reasonably clear.
Ward originally worked as a hairdresser and created his own shampoo and hair treatment products by mixing various ingredients together. He apparently discovered Starlite by accident when he was experimenting with different mixtures of chemicals. He will say nothing about its composition other than that all 21 ingredients are freely available, and can be mixed in a blender. His wife is the only other person who knows the formula.
Starlite is an insulator, capable of withstanding huge temperatures. Exactly how huge is unclear. Various sources quote figures from 2,700 degrees celsius to an absurd 28,000 +/- ("eight times higher than that at which diamonds melt"). You should probably take these figures, maybe this whole node, with more than just a pinch of salt.
One of the TV demonstrations of the material involved coating an chicken's egg with Starlite, then heating it for several minutes with an oxyacetylene welding torch. Ward immediately picked it up with bare hands, cracked it open on the tabletop and poured out the contents, which were still raw. Another documentary showed an attempt to burn through some Starlite with a laser, which ended with a ruined laser and an undamaged piece of Starlite. Curiously, its resistance to heat seemed to increase with the heat's intensity and (if I remember the documentary correctly) began to reflect the laser beam back, which caused the damage.
After the TV performances further tests were allegedly performed by laboratories in the UK and at NASA in the US. The sources of this are not exactly reputable, but they make interesting reading nonetheless. Tests by the Ministry of Defence in Britain subjected a piece of Starlite to the heat of 25 nuclear flashes over 30 seconds. It was undamaged. Starlite isn't armour though, so while a piece of it might be able to withstand the heat of a nuclear blast it would still be blown to bits by one.
The possibilities for a material like this are staggering. A great deal of insulation currently used could be replaced with a coating of Starlite. It has been speculated that simply painting the inside walls of a house with paint impregnated with particles of Starlite would have a greater insulating effect than any loft insulation or cavity wall insulation currently in use. Reentry insulation for spacecraft could come from Starlite, as well as the obvious military applications - protecting vehicles from the heat of close range explosions and even nuclear detonations (at least, to a greater extent than they would be protected currently). Impregnating fabric with it would be just as useful for fire-fighters as it would be for soldiers.
Another interesting aspects of this is that all the corporations Ward initially approached about demonstating his invention replied to his enquiries with a standard "thankyou for your letter, however" brush-off. After the performance of the material had been demonstrated on television many of them, undoubtedly now feeling rather stupid, conducted internal investigations to find out why Ward had been dismissed out of hand. One company, the large chemical conglomerate ICI, included research into its own patent-making department. The research found a roughly inverse relationship between the number of scientific qualifications a chemist had, and the number of patents he or she had contributed to. Those with the most qualifications generally contributed to the fewest patents. In fact, the employee who had contributed to the most of ICI's patents had no scientific qualifications at all!
Updates within the last five years appear to confirm much of the reported testing on Starlite, although there is no firm data on the limits of its capabilities. Included in these updates are reports of unsuccessful attempts by various countries to duplicate the material and that a deal was almost struck between Ward, the Department of Energy and NASA, but that it fell through because NASA refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The latest news on the material is that it is being "investigated" by several aerospace companies in the US, and that negotiations have taken place between Ward and an investor from Miami to open up a center dedicated to researching and developing Starlite further.
I have no proof of any of this, but saw the documentaries I cite, both of which are or were regular, well-regarded (at the time, in the case of Tomorrow's World) BBC series. Some evidence, if it exists, of the capabilities of this material would make an excellent addition to this node.
- Milton, Richard; "Flame-proof";
- Modem Addictus BBS; (untitled);
<http://www.beyond-the-illusion.com/files/Aliens/General/lyran-2.txt> (search for 'starlite' in page)
- Henley Centre; "Rethinking NPD: giving full rein to the Innovator";
- (Author unknown); "NEW PLASTIC ARMOUR";
- Digital Media Group; "STARLITE" (only available via archive.org);